Advice for the Distracted

I am going to tell you something that I am not really proud to admit. Are you ready?

 

Okay. Here it goes.

 

I'm an easily distracted person.

 

WHAT.

Not Courtney Marie!

Hold on. Let me explain.

Self-motivated? Yes.

Productive? Oh yeah.

Inattentive? To my knowledge, I’ve never been accused of such a thing.

Preoccupied? Only sometimes.

I reel in the madness a little at work. To give you an idea of what I am talking about, here’s my current home studio and my Swash-copywriting-space, for comparison.

Where I work at home.

Where I work at home.

Where I work at work.

Where I work at work.

 

The good news is that I have had many years to master the art of keeping myself on-task… but that just means I must work extra hard so day-to-day activities don’t become a living hell. (Oh, and also so I can keep doing my job well!)

If you struggle with this like I do, I'd like to share some of my secrets with you. Here's how I subdue my instinctive desires to work on forty things at once or become incapacitated by distraction:

LISTS. Lists I love: the ones that have information I need to survive the day. Lists I hate: the kind that tell me "OMG Twenty Truths About Being a Twenty-Something LOL". (UGH. I've blocked every "listical" click-bate website I possibly can on social media and they still creep in.)

But seriously. So many lists. Stacks of post-it notes litter my desk, notecards everywhere. One look at my home studio and you may begin to wonder if there's not something seriously wrong with me, but I promise it’s meticulously organized! I know exactly which bright square or strip of paper has the information I need at any given time, and I know exactly which one I need to look at when my mind starts to wander or I forget what I’m doing. The most important list is the all-encompassing SHIT TO DO list. I write enough information on it so there’s never any doubt about what I need to be doing, even on the most hectic of days.

FOLDERS. Whether they're on a hard drive or sitting in a neat little pile on my desk, it is essential that everything I need at all times is collected in one spot so it can be easily located. If this is not the case, I’ll accidentally find myself working on ten projects over the course of an hour after setting out to find a single document for a single task. The key to getting things done is keeping projects separated and easy-to-find.

BREAKS. This is a tough one, and though it might initially seem counter-productive, I assure you it is the opposite. Between tasks, I try to give myself a little break. Even if it’s only sixty seconds of re-calibration (closed eyes, deep breaths), getting a fresh cup of coffee, or stretching. Being a distracted person, sometimes it's hard to stop and relax for a moment, but I've found it really helps to do something, anything, to clear my mind for the next task at hand.

 

The following short (a deleted scene from the feature-length film, The Future) was written, directed, and performed by Miranda July, a personal role model of mine. It’s one of my favorite clips depicting the challenge of being a distracted creative and the extremes one must sometimes go through to overcome it.

It’s perfect. She’s perfect. (Miranda, if you’re reading this, call me?)

Hey, wait. Weren’t you working on something before you found your way here? You should go do that.

Have a productive day!

Courtney Marie

Swash Labes, 608 E. Hickory St. Suite 120, Denton, TX 76201, United States